We all have ideas about the kinds of parents we’re going to be, learning from the perceived “mistakes” we’ve seen friends and family make. Then the baby comes and BAM! Turns out we were seriously deluded. To the mother who’s never broken any of the vows on the list, we salute you – to everyone else, we’re right there with you and we don’t care.
Obsess about everything
You think you’ll be one of those laid-back, go with the flow types who takes their baby to the pub and doesn’t let them take over their lives. The baby will just be a cute lifestyle accessory who will revel in adult company and you’ll still be you, only wiser, more nurturing and perhaps just ever so slightly chubbier. You won’t get hung up on baby stuff because that’s boring and naff. Ha. We totally get this, because when you’re pregnant (or even before), you just can’t imagine the huge change that you’re about to go through. If you knew about it, you would freak the hell OUT. The fact is, even the coolest of cucumbers (cu-mum-bers?) gets hung up on how often their baby feeds and sleeps and poos and then ends up talking about it all the fricking time with anyone who’ll listen. It’s normal. Embrace it.
Let them eat crap
We start out on our weaning journey with the best of intentions and most first-time mums are pretty strict for the first few months of it, making sure they feed their baby nothing but lots of nice wholesome fruit, veg and natural – perhaps even organic – foods. A cheeky fromage frais feels like the height of decadence. But then things get busy. When you visit a friend with an older kid and they offer up some orange squash when your baby has only ever had water and milk, you feel like you’re being precious if you turn it down. And when your baby won’t stop squawking in the post office queue and the only snack you have on hand is half a packet of crisps, you will reach for them. Plus you just wait until they work out what the ice cream van’s all about. But chill your boots. As long as every meal isn’t a KFC mega-bucket, they’ll probably be OK.
Shout at them
Your baby will behave nicely because you’ll treat them with respect and maturity and have reasoned, grown-up conversations with them from day one, right? Newsflash: babies are self-motivated and irrational, and even the most calm and caring of earth mothers will occasionally lose their composure. When, for instance, you’re both beyond exhausted but your baby is refusing to nap, you’ll do your best to stay chilled but occasionally snapping and raising your voice is totally normal. You’ll hate the way you sound (just like your mum, by any chance?) but it will happen. Just put it down to a bad day for both of you and try not to use the c word.
Similarly, when your baby starts veering towards toddlerhood, you’ll find other ways to get them into line – ways that you used to think you’d never consider and may even have, whisper it, judged other parents for in the past. Bribing them with technology, snacks and toys are all go-tos for many parents. As long as you don’t make a habit of it and instead simply pull the bribes out of the bag when you need them the most, your baby probably won’t turn into a manipulative psychopath. Well, unless it runs in the family.
Fill your house with excessive plastic tat
We all have visions of our baby playing contentedly with stylish, overpriced wooden toys purchased from craft fairs and Scandinavian websites. Then we realise early on that the best way to amuse them is to shove them in an all-singing, all-dancing, all-flashing, all-beeping, all-battery-devouring plastic contraption that’s bigger than our first car and makes them giggle their adorable little heads off. Don’t panic, we won’t tell your Instagram followers if you won’t.
Conform to gender stereotypes
When you’re pregnant, you’ll moan about the amount of girls’ clothes featuring pink, sparkly slogans about princesses and boys’ clothes emblazoned with pictures of fire engines and tractors. Then the baby comes and we’re just grateful for whatever we’re given. Fast forward to the toy years, and the same thing happens again. If your little girl gravitates towards dolls, fairy dresses and bunny rabbits while your boy loves dinosaurs, football and mud, it’s nothing you’ve done. Blame decades of social conditioning or maybe even good old mother nature.
Let them watch telly and play on your phone
We have nothing but respect for parents who manage to avoid screentime for as long as possible. But how on earth do they get anything done? Lots of kids telly these days is actually educational (right???), we grew up watching it and turned out just fine (right???????) and by the time they’re old enough for school, they’ll probably be required to have smart phones instead of fingers, so what’s the harm in starting early? In an ideal world, we’d spend our days stimulating our kids with arts and crafts and books and ukuleles, but in that ideal world, there’s also a friendly robot who does all our laundry, cooks dinner and keeps an eye on our emails. Never. Gonna. Happen.